Though many people may be familiar with advocating for their child, an elderly parent or a cause they care deeply about, they may be less familiar with self-advocacy – or advocating for themselves.
Certainly, you’ve heard about self-care or spending time taking care of yourself.
Self-advocacy takes this one step further where you are more assertive in finding the right kind of support and being more specific when asking for help or telling people what you need to better manage your health.
It’s important to understand that taking care of yourself or advocating for yourself does not mean you are being selfish.
Instead, it’s a reminder that your health and well-being are worth the time and effort.
Here are Some Ways you Can Use Self-Advocacy to Improve Your Health:
1 – With Family and Friends
Getting the right support can either make or break your weight loss program.
I often tell patients that their family and friends are not mind readers so if they need help from someone to better follow through with their healthy lifestyle program, they need to verbalize their requests. Here are some examples:
- Can you watch the children on Tuesday afternoons so I can go to my workout class?
- It’s really hard for me to resist eating ice cream when you bring cartons into the house. Can we get single-serving frozen yogurt dessert options instead and make a date to enjoy ice cream out for special occasions?
- I’m looking for a morning walking buddy to help me be more accountable. Will you join me?
- Can we choose a different restaurant for lunch that has healthier options?
- Would you consider splitting an entree with me and we can each get our own salads at the restaurant, since oversized portions are enough to feed a twosome?
- Can you find a hotel for our trip that has a fitness center so I can continue my workouts?
- Can I bring a favorite, healthy dish to your party?
2 – With Work Colleagues
As we are transitioning to going back into the office, the workplace presents other challenges to our health that we need to address. Anything you can do to better manage your stress at work or eating and inactivity temptations can be helpful. Here are some examples of self-advocacy workplace requests:
- I’m completely overloaded and need to delegate some work tasks. Is there someone you think can help me?
- I prefer to bring a healthier lunch from home instead of going out all the time. We can still socialize in the break room and then have more time to take a walk afterward. Will you join me?
- Can we put together a group to look at having healthier snack foods in the vending machines?
- Is there anything that can be done to have better lighting in the stairwells so we feel more comfortable using the stairs?
3 – With Health Care Providers
As your gatekeeper for your health, your primary care provider (PCP) can help you manage weight. But we know that PCP’s don’t always bring weight up during visits and sometimes they can make you feel shamed or even blamed for your excess weight. Self-advocacy works well here also. Here are some example questions you can ask:
- I need more help managing my weight. Can you help me or refer me to someone?
- Am I a candidate for a weight loss medication?
- I find your stigmatizing comments like saying I’m non-compliant when I’m doing the best I can quite offensive. I would like to have a more collaborative relationship with you when it comes to my weight. Are you ok with that?
Having stronger self-advocacy skills will help you fight weight bias and find health care providers who can partner with you in you quest for better health.
Once you’re feeling more comfortable advocating for yourself, you may be interested in joining the Obesity Action Coalition, an organization that does a wonderful job advocating for those who are impacted by the disease of obesity.
Please visit their website to learn more and become a member.
Robert Kushner, MD